Multi Region N64

Discussion in 'Modding and Hacking - Consoles and Electronics' started by MRKane05, Nov 23, 2016.

  1. MRKane05

    MRKane05 Active Member

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    Hello everyone,

    I don't often post here as much prefer to stick to my own little corner, but recently my interest has been in making a multi-region N64. Using plans and ideas outlined at http://www.retrovideogames.de/mods-adaptors/nintendo/n64-multinorm-single-switch-mod-overclocking/ I zealously went ahead and made my own PCB for easy mounting. EagleCad files haven't been uploaded yet but I will on request (and I'm also not all that proud of it due to the schematic being very rough and unrefined) - I believe everything should be open and freely available.


    Although now that I've gone to all of that effort - is there anything outside my little bubble that I've missed (a way to wire a universal CIC into it or something?).

    Thing is: when you're doing a mod that isn't nearly enough now is it - it'd sure be nice to have a good solid solution with no moving parts ;) Having had time to mess around with this a bit I've found that the system is pretty durable to switching PIF shortly after startup, but there's a lot going on here with some lines dropping to earth, and others reading different values. I did read that line 8 goes high when the PIF accepts the cartridge (easily detectable by a microcontroller...in theory) and wanted to know if anyone else had more information on this that I could follow up before the next iteration.

    Cheers everyone!
     
  2. MRKane05

    MRKane05 Active Member

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    So what I would have liked to have done is come up with a way to make this mod much easier to do, but mainly wanted to make my mod more reliable. My original intent was to have something along the lines of:
    -A FFC surface mount connector with a 1.26mm (1.25 or 1.27 might just do) pitch for mounting to the N64 PCB to get around 26 wires!
    -A FFC ribbon for connecting the PCB to the main board (again - to remove error with those wires)
    -Some sort of way to detect if the PIF had been "accepted"
    -Something better than that multiplexer as it doesn't seem to be 100% (I suspect) so was looking at the analogue switches from Texas Instruments, which are also cheaper.

    Thing is I'm having a really difficult time finding any of the FFC components - while the net appears to be full of them, all retailers are seemingly out of stock. I also cannot find a good way to detect if the console has accepted the PIF (plus the CPU seems to lock up if it's not accepted, and won't unlock until you get a good signal).

    So that's about where this little mod stands. I'm not sure it's worthwhile taking it any further as it's become a bit of a financial sink for me.

    Have fun everyone - and any ideas are always welcome!
     
  3. takeshi385

    takeshi385 Mojarra Frita Bandit

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    Love the work, hopefully the mod becomes more refined so we have an elegant well documented solution.
     
  4. MRKane05

    MRKane05 Active Member

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    In amendment to the above (schematic available on site) this is the Eagle file I used for the PCB. The only bit that's a bit visually confusing are the connections for the different switch input lines which are broken into two rows, the top is for the NTSC PIF and the bottom is for PAL (there wasn't much room for silk, so it's the "G, V, N" area) and the extra pad off to the right is for running lines to a multi-colour LED as I like visual cues.

    The input lines are described by pin number from the N64 PCB and as you can see it is a royal mess of blues to sort out! If I do revise this a second time it'll probably be of similar form, but it really needs a cap somewhere to make sure it's always getting a consistent 3.4v - the PIF chip appears to be rather fickle about VCC. The other thing I shouldn't have done was follow the datasheets exactly as it makes soldering the multiplexer down a bit of a task, and the pads for the PIF chips could do with a little more room.

    And to add to all of that: I did print off spare PCBs so if anyone does want one it'd only be flat production cost + postage.
     

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  5. LeHaM

    LeHaM Site Soldier

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    could you use ribbon cable of the same pitch? :)
     
  6. MRKane05

    MRKane05 Active Member

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    That's what I'd like to do. The problem I'm having is trying to find it as it's a very funny measurement - having connectors would be the icing on the cake here too. So if anyone would recommend a site it'd be fantastic!
     
  7. LeHaM

    LeHaM Site Soldier

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    go to the ewaste center and bust open some old printers, those guys are full of flat fex stuff
     
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  8. MRKane05

    MRKane05 Active Member

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    Hey I'd never thought of that! I'll have a dig around and see if I can find something that's got a matching pitch. Will also continue searching to see if I can find somewhere to buy something as I do like making patterns which are repeatable :D
    Edit: Found some - although possibly not from a good source...
     
    Last edited: Nov 28, 2016
  9. LeHaM

    LeHaM Site Soldier

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    well if you do find a matching pitch, the flex or connector should have a part number or some kind of specs to order more
     
  10. MRKane05

    MRKane05 Active Member

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    Thanks for the support everyone!
    Actually found some suitable FCC on eBay: ordered, naturally, although it'll be a while until the parts arrive, and I've not had time to investigate things recently. I'd like to come up with a solution that handles the clocks, can do it's own boot (like the Otakus one), and it'd be nice if it didn't have to have a RGB mod (as those consoles are becoming difficult to get hold of for me!), and on top of all of that: a nice cheap board design and parts list for everyone. So it's a big wish-list there! I'll keep things posted, but given that it's the Christmas season I expect things to slow to a crawl.
     
  11. Helder

    Helder Site Supporter 2014,2015

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    Why not use a standard pitch connector and put that on a quick solder pcb with the pitch of the PIF and solder it to the location of the PIF on the consolde with the connector in the middle and use a ribbon to connect it to a separate board with the 2 PIFs?

    Shouldn't be hard to do and parts of standard pitch 0.5mm or 1mm are easily and cheaply found.
     
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  12. MRKane05

    MRKane05 Active Member

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    Thing is I actually don't know what all the components are called! I'm a programmer that got an interest in this after looking at the N64 CIC code so I'm a real baby in the electronics aspect so am happy for any idea that comes my way! The ultimate would be a FFC/FPC SMD connector that mounts on the PIF pads...but it's a lot to wish for! Aside from that, finding something that works with that pitch (and doesn't exasperate the human error factor) is tough. All that said: Post links? I'm pretty dim :(

    I should add that I live in New Zealand so getting components quickly becomes cost prohibitive, plus I'm lucky if the local "specialist electronics store" stocks more than a SPDT switch! I'll be relying on selling this MOD before I've the finance to work on the next revision, but I should be able to use a breadboard to mount things for testing on in the near future.
     
  13. Helder

    Helder Site Supporter 2014,2015

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    Sorry forgot to post the links but generally like this below:

    http://www.digikey.com/product-sear...t=0&page=1&quantity=0&ptm=0&fid=0&pageSize=25

    What is the pitch size of the pif pins and the total length/width of the chip? I can make a quick solder board for the console using one of those sockets maybe a 1mm pitch so it's easier to solder on by hand and post the files here. You can then take the rest over from there for your other board.
     
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  14. MRKane05

    MRKane05 Active Member

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    Thank you so much for the link! I'll have to renew my efforts to learn how to use that site...

    I had a stray thought last night that I was going about this completely wrong and I should be trying to intercept the handshake between the PIF and CIC and address things on those two lines, and perhaps "translating" it between the two to fool the system into accepting the cart. If we could do that on a couple of microcontrollers, with an SMD analogue switch to control the respective clock timings then we've a far easier region mod.

    After a little searching I found a German forum where they were discussing just that, I've reached out to discuss this with the threads creator as there's nothing worse than working on something only to find that there's a better way and time has been wasted ;) So I'm putting the project on a back-burner for a little bit and waiting to see what comes through from that forum. Will continue to mess with the clocks and data lines however, but the creation aspect is on hold.

    Now instead of writing you out specs here I've attached the Eagle parts library that I designed for the PIF project. I've since elongated the pads as while I am pretty good at soldering I still like things to be as easy as possible, but besides that the dimensions are all there and the components are the correct sizing (I've used them so can verify) least people want to do their own boards.

    EDIT: Apparently that's not the way to do things, and also apparently there are efforts to make a region free PIF and we'll hear about it when it happens :) I'm all ok with that, but I'd still like to know how to do all of this including switching on one board hehehehe
     

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    Last edited: Dec 2, 2016
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  15. MRKane05

    MRKane05 Active Member

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    Well while trying to work away at solving this problem the unit decided to stop working. I've spent a bit of time trying to figure out how to fix it but am at a dead end now. Shame really :(
     
  16. Helder

    Helder Site Supporter 2014,2015

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    I know there is a CIC clone out there maybe you can integrate that into your board? So the PIF is dead or the console?
     
  17. MRKane05

    MRKane05 Active Member

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    I was actually talking to one of its creators about that, and got referred to a German thread where they tried as much but hit a problem they couldn't overcome. I wasn't able to sort out any way to do an auto-switch and was actually looking at buying a logic sniffer to try and track something down in the data feed. Ideally I'd find a way to check the region of the cart and then allocate the correct PIF, just the "how" is beyond my ability. I've reached out to a few people in the community, and have been developing another PCB to do just that. Time will tell I suppose.

    Pertaining to "what's dead" it'd seem that if something isn't wired correctly the CPU gets locked, and it takes about 12 hours for it to unlock suggesting there's a charge or switch stored somewhere that gets forgotten over time, or I could have fumbled a solder connection, pulled a wire loose - any number of those wonderful things! If there's a next revision it'll be using FFC to try and minimise my own error.
     
  18. MRKane05

    MRKane05 Active Member

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    Here's something really stupid I floated previously but felt that it wouldn't work at that stage, and that's putting a micro-switch on the cart slot so that it's depressed for NTSC and not for PAL. Thing is that I can't think of a way to do this so that the JAP cart toggles the switch down. Any ideas?
     
  19. Marmotta

    Marmotta Dauntless Member

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    I'm going to be getting an UltraHDMI soon for my N64, so I'm also going to be looking into installing some sort of region free device as well.

    Regarding a switchless solution, doesn't one of the points on the PIF (off the top of my head pin 8, maybe?) receive different signals on boot depending on the cart region? If it's a high/low signal, then a CMOS analog switch would be able to automatically select whichever PIF was needed. I think that's what otaku-store's version does.
     
  20. MRKane05

    MRKane05 Active Member

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    Hey Marmotta! I broke the unit I was messing about with so am out of funds to continue working on it, but the solution I had did work, and I can post you one of the spare PCBs if you wished to take the risk. I'm not sure how worthwhile it is however as it's intermittent and painfully fiddly.

    Pertaining to pin 8: it always appears to be high regardless of the region. Shame that it wasn't so simple! I've asked around to see if anyone could think of something but there's little interest out there for this. Any solution we did come up with would have to include the clocks so that game timing doesn't go off either - and that becomes complicated! I'll keep you posted if anything does happen, but for now I'm dead in the water :(
     

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